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Turnbull open to arguments on media ownership rules

TEN and Nine back calls to relax Reach Rules and the govt is "sympathetic" to their case.

2014-03-10_0106Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given his strongest indication so far that he may act on current media rules, which prevent cross-ownership of newspapers, radio and television stations in the same city.

It follows media CEOs lobbying him on Friday.

“The view is put to me by many people in the industry and (it) is very cogent. Why in an age where the internet has become the super platform … why do we need platforms-specific ownership rules dealing with newspapers, radio and television?” he told SKY News’s Australian Agenda.

“The arrival of the internet and the additional diversity and avenues for competition that it brings, really says we should have less regulation and more freedom.

“The previous government’s approach to the media was to beat up those media outlets that disagreed with it and try and favour those that gave it some support. The fact is I am not the minister for right-wing communications or pro-Liberal communications. (Mr) Conroy thought that he was the minister for supporting pro-Labor communications.”

Current Reach rules prevents Nine, Seven and TEN from merging with regional networks including listed companies Southern Cross, Prime Media Group and WIN Network.

TEN CEO Hamish McLennan said current laws were redundant, Nine Network boss David Gyngell branded them antiquated but Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner has not backed the move, saying all views need to be heard, especially those in regional areas.

In a statement, Tim Worner said: “What we need to be extremely careful about is that this is not the first but sure step to a country where you have to pay to watch the footy or the cricket. Or where we have only one or two dominant sources of news and opinion. Certain ownership combinations could well lead to that situation. We need to make sure this is not about getting ordinary Australians to pay for what we have always had for free in this country. Australians won’t cop that and nor should the government.”

There has been speculation News Corp could buy TEN if the rules were relaxed. News Corp has denied any interest.

“Why is there a 75 per cent reach limitation? Why is there a rule that says today that you can’t own print, television and radio in the same market? You could be fair to say that I am very sympathetic about it,” said Turnbull.

Source: Herald Sun, The Australian, Australian Financial Review

17 Responses

  1. The only thing Ten is valuable for is sport because of the anti-syphoning laws which restricts Foxsports. Murdoch would use Ten and Foxsports to try and wrest the NRL,AFL, Cricket and Tennis etc away from Nine and Seven.

    Which is why the ACCC should stop that happening. Stokes was barred from owning FTA and STV assets. Kerry Packer got away with it but
    everyone was scared of him.

    News news would just be Sky News. They have already sounded out showing it on FTA or ITV to compete with ABC24.

  2. “The fact is I am not the minister for right-wing communications or pro-Liberal communications”

    This coming from the party who said the ABC should have “Some basic affection for the home team” and who want to turn the Australia network into a ‘soft diplomacy tool”.

  3. TEN has been softened up by Murdoch, Packer & Rinehart ready for these coming changes. News Corp will get TEN and turn it into the kind of rag that they produce as newspapers. It won’t just be the Bolt Report produced by News Corp, it will be the all of its news services, current affairs etc “without fear or favour” as Mr Bolt is so hypocritically fond of saying.

  4. Good ol’ deregulation. Let’s see they bring in Workchoices or the like so we become like the U.S. i.e. working poor. So perhaps 1% of the population can afford Foxtel. Goodbye Foxtel. Then since 1% of the population can afford anything then that means goodbye commercial networks. They sell off the ABC and SBS as well. Goodbye television industry.

    Maybe I’m over imagining it. But both the Labor and the Coalition sold off stuff and deregulated. Think Qantas, Ansett and the airline industry. Think the car industry. They also deregulated the start times with television because that isn’t going to go wrong eventually. Don’t you love deregulation and where it leads to? Oh well.

  5. In most other industries, the ACCC will step in if there are any mergers that are deemed anti-competitive. That would prevent say Seven or Nine taking over TEN as well in the city markets for example.

    But only in media is there a “reach” rule where the owner of one network is only allowed to reach 75% of the population – that is despite the fact that in this day and age the internet reaches everywhere and programming on network affiliates is essentially the same as the city stations.

    The reach rule is like allowing Coles and Woolworths to open up to serve only 75% of Australia’s population.

    It is this reach rule which is outdated and should be removed while any other anti-competitive behaviour should still be controlled to some extent.

  6. @Pertinax is right. The only reason Kerry Stokes and Seven West are against relaxing the reach rule is because they think that Nine will end up doing better out of it than them.

    Ironically, if you want a good argument as to why the cross-media ownership rules shouldn’t be abolished, just have a look at what Alvar has mentioned about the cosy relationship between the Seven Network and the local rag. They’re both owned by Seven West Media along with a bunch of regional newspapers, Pacific magazines, half of Yahoo7, a few regional radio stations, and some other bits and pieces. You wouldn’t know Nine existed in Perth. I think Seven are happy enough with things as they are.

  7. @Guy-“It would be like allowing Coles and Woolworths to merge and create a super monopoly… If you allow networks to swallow up the competition there will be no competition.”
    It’s not about 7 or 9 buying 10. There’s no competition between city and regional operators. They are all affiliated. The only difference is the commercials. Newspapers owning TV networks were broken up decades ago, for good reasons.

  8. Actually at the moment Ten would have to pay News to take them over. Nobody wants to merge with or buy Ten.

    Nine did want to merge with Southern Cross to improve their control and get a listing on the stockmarket. But Nine have bought Perth and Adelaide and are working on those and have listed on the market and Southern Cross have entered into new affiliation deal with Ten. So they may no longer want to merge.

    Seven doesn’t want to merge with Prime, they have a good working relationship. Seven was behind the torpedoing of Conroy’s lame attempt to remove the reach rule, and are still doing so trying to whipping up oppositions in the regions because they think Nine has more to gain than them.

  9. The rules are in place for a reason. For this government to come in and think that they can just relax the rules for everyone will cause a huge amount of problems if you ask me and the first thing to suffer will be local news in regional areas.

    It would be like allowing Coles and Woolworths to merge and create a super monopoly. That’s how i see it. If you allow networks to swallow up the competition there will be no competition. The old government already allowed Foxtel to swallow Austar. Don’t let the same thing happen to the media. At first it would seem there is no harm to it but look at the long term effects.

  10. “The previous government’s approach to the media was to beat up those media outlets that disagreed with it and try and favour those that gave it some support”

    Rather ironic, given the PM’s commentary about the ABC!

  11. Personally I can’t see anything wrong with dropping the reach rule as it’s not like the big networks could do any worse a job at ensuring there is local news bulletins (WIN dropped the news in Griffith in 2006 and as WIN have a monopoly here no other network could provide an alternative). Also I don’t see anything wrong with News Corp. taking full ownership of TEN as it’s not like they could do any worse than the current owners. Hell, a little cross promotion between News Corps other channels might actually help (e.g. delayed airing of FX’s Ultimate Fighter Australia, some docos from Nat Geo family of channels, etc.). In regards to the 2 out of 3 ownership rule, I think that would be better off staying to allow for diversity in ownership.

  12. I don’t see a problem in relaxing the 75% rule, it won’t change the realities of regional TV very much. The cross media laws I wouldn’t touch… we do need *some* diversity of media ownership in this country

  13. “There has been speculation that News Corp could buy Ten if the rules were relaxed. News Corp. has denied any interest”

    Sometimes its is a fine line and much cheaper not to ‘buy’ but instead, simply gaining control via shares purchases of a poorly performing organization, as per recently demonstrated by another mega rich vested interest in a similar venture.

    And why do visions of ‘B B’ (blanket bias) and ‘ FTFA’ (farewell to free access) leap into mind

  14. I don’t think it’s a good idea. In Perth The West Australian newspaper and Channel 7 have a cross media partnership and the newspaper is full of advertisements and biased writing in favour of Channel 7.

  15. The reason we have the rules is so we don’t have media owners like Rupert controlling all the information.

    Rupert has already proved he is biased and incapable of impartiality.

    Commercial “News” is already newstainment built around advertising content and owners agendas, real news and non-sensationalized information are already a thing of the past.

    Commercial Media outlets will not run content that offends their advertisers or another outlet now, (See Getup during election and Anti-Coke ads in NT), yet the only truly unbiased news outlet is under attack because one media owner wants you to pay for his opinions.

    The Media are not special, they are a business that aims to make money, truth and impartiality are the first casualties.

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